Why Chris Sharma Doesn’t Boulder More

Why Chris Sharma Doesn’t Boulder More

Chris Sharma was in Stockholm, Sweden the other day where he sat down with TheLowDown to discuss what he’s been up to of late.  Among other things, Sharma said that he isn’t as interested in bouldering these days because the, “hardest problems today are either super painful because the holds are so small, or really, really condition dependant… it’s not fun anymore”.

Chris Sharma not stressed about conditions on a rare summer ascent of The Mandala

Photo:  Bishop Bouldering Blog

Underscoring his point is the fact that very little news of note has come out of the American bouldering scene this year as far as the progression of grades is concerned.  Most of the strongest American boulderers seem to be shifting their focus to sport climbing (usually in Europe) with notable boulderers James Litz, Dave Graham, Daniel Woods and even Paul Robinson spending more of their time clipping bolts.  As Sharma says in the interview, “I think it’s difficult to get much further [in bouldering], unless the problems simply get longer, but why not climb a route then instead?”

Check out the full post for the rest of Sharma’s thoughts.

Posted In: From The Narc, Interviews
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31 Responses to Why Chris Sharma Doesn’t Boulder More

  1. Erik September 23, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    home boy makes a good point.

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  2. anon September 23, 2009 at 10:11 am #

    hasn’t he heard? the next step in the progression of the sport is…gym climbing!

    http://www.b3bouldering.com/2009/08/31/cats-2/

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    • Narc September 23, 2009 at 11:24 am #

      Actually if you think about it, the points Jamie makes about indoor bouldering and Sharma’s views about sport climbing are somewhat similar.

      Why waste time climbing sharp holds or waiting for good conditions when you can either climb inside or sport climb? Obviously if we all lived in a place like Spain where amazing sport climbing was everywhere we would probably do that, but since that isn’t the case (even in Boulder) we look to other options.

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      • anon September 23, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

        I can come up with dozens of reasons to go inside instead of outside…I mean, unless you live in Northern Spain, with crags at your doorstep, then you should just not go outside at all.

        If all you want to do is boulder, and train indoors for bouldering, then just admit it. It’s OK. Climbing’s not for everyone, and if you see the training for it as an end in itself, cool. Lots of people just work out.

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  3. geko September 23, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    That’s lame to say isn’t it about the pursuit? The journey sometimes is the best part, all of my hardest sends I worked on for months it became my religion, and most everything I thought about and waking up on the cold day when the sun was blazing and it there was just enough friction on the rock for the problem I was agonizing over for days goes, thats passion. The rediculous crags and gyms that are over bolted with unrealistic jumps and moves that when performed over and over again doesnt do anything but hurt your body. Even bouldering before pads it was still about the allure of the line. Bouldering is sick and the progression although it has slowed is still rediculous, Slow year didn’t Dave Graham and several others do Big Worm , a line that has been looked at for years, or Sunseeker the sick sketchy highball, don;t tell me nothing got done this summer on the american bouldering front. Bouldering is here to stay whether Sharma can keep up or not

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    • john September 23, 2009 at 7:32 pm #

      “Bouldering is here to stay whether Sharma can keep up or not”

      It’s the other way around, bouldering’s not keeping with him

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  4. dachoppera September 24, 2009 at 12:26 am #

    lot of homers on here

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  5. Mark September 24, 2009 at 12:43 am #

    I feel like Sharma says about hard boulders what I feel about normal routes or problems. Small crimpers. Wtf? Jugs and reasonable slopers please.

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  6. Ryan September 24, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    Chris Sharma is all about “raising the bar” and “bringing the sport of climbing to new levels”. I definitely have to agree with John, bouldering is not keeping up with Sharma. Chris always wants to push himself to the next level in climbing and he is doing just that with sport climbing and in a bouldering sense that isn’t happening for Chris or any other top climber for that matter. He has completed some of the world’s toughest boulder problems (V14 & V15) some that have yet to be repeated so bouldering is definitely not passing him by.

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  7. hosebeats September 24, 2009 at 11:57 am #

    My guess is that he’s also a smart business man. He knows that v15, while impressive, is much more attainable by a larger pool of people than the next 9a+ or 9b. He’d have to work his ass off to find badass boulder problems that are news worthy as opposed to walking out his front door in Spain and taking his pick of super hard, aesthetic sport lines.
    He’s always on the forefront of the new hotness-> its how he keeps the sponsers happy and how the dollars keep flowing.

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  8. Throwdown September 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    oh snap, did Chris Sharma sort of declare bouldering “over”?

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  9. john September 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm #

    Another reason sport climbing seems to be dominating right now as the primary medium for advancing climbing difficulty is that most hard sport routes – Dreamcatcher, Jumbo Love, La Rambla etc – are enhanced to some extent, usually just enough so they’re feasible for whatever the current elite level of climbing difficulty is. Bouldering, on the other hand, has to wait for standards to advance to the level of difficulty the rock actually presents, because of the stigma attached to manufactured boulder problems. In this sense one could argue that the advances in standards seen in sport climbing in recent years aren’t really representative of an actual advance in difficulty, compared to the way that bouldering standards have advanced. In other words, if you were to apply the same strict, no-fake-holds standard to sport climbing that you do to bouldering, sport climbing almost certainly would not be where it is today.

    I think the next real advance in sport climbing will have to wait till we get people who are trained up to Sharma’s hypothetical “8a problems stacked on top of one another” level, which no one, including him, is anywhere near yet. The training technique and human ability for that probably doesn’t exist yet (if it ever will), and in any event the current prevalence of manufactured routes on the cutting edge of difficulty hinders, not advances, accelerated difficulty. The fact tha Sharma himself has only advanced 3 letter grades since in the dozen or so years since Necessary Evil could be taken as proof of this hypothesis.

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    • Narc September 25, 2009 at 8:07 am #

      I’m not really sure what to make of the whole “all hard sport routes are manufactured” angle. In the case of Dreamcatcher, Sharma didn’t come along and pin scar the holds until it was easy enough for him to climb, that was done by people with a completely different mindset.

      The problem with hard boulder problems is that the holds need to get absurdly small at this point for standards to advance which has nothing to do with manufacturing.

      Your final point is worth noting although I’m not sure how it backs up your hypothesis.

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  10. Remo September 25, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    John, where is your proof that hard sport routes are all manufactured. Was it not Sharma who showed up in China and sent a manufactured route naturally without the drilled hole and re-named it. What gives man!

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    • john September 25, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

      “…where is your proof that hard sport routes are all manufactured. Was it not Sharma who showed up in China and sent a manufactured route naturally without the drilled hole…”

      You do realize that those 2 sentences contradict each other right? Just checking.

      Like I said, most hard routes have manufactured holds. That better climbers come along and do the routes w/o the manufactured holds is beside the point.

      And a lot of the time they get manufactured for the exact reason that one was – not wanting or being able to put in the time to make it go without, and not wanting to leave empty handed.

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  11. Remo September 25, 2009 at 2:10 pm #

    “In other words, if you were to apply the same strict, no-fake-holds standard to sport climbing that you do to bouldering, sport climbing almost certainly would not be where it is today.”
    Where does this come from is my question?
    My point was that Sharma does not approve of manufacturing routes, hense he shows up in China and sends a drilled route to prove to everyone that you can climb a route without manufacturing it. Dave Graham as well as others are very outspoken advocates for clean climbing. Basically, if you cannot send it, don’t touch it. Simple. I highly doubt anything he is sending in Spain is manufactured. With that being said, he is just one of many who are pushing the limits of climbing rock naturally. How could you drill or glue on a route such a Es Pontas when you are freeing it ground up with no ropes? You just can’t compare the ethics of old school sport climbing to the shit these guys are doing today. Sure there are some who get kicks off of fucking with rock to climb it, some think it’s fine, I do not! Fuck it, these guys are stronger and smarter and more conscious of their actions. It’s nothing against you personally, but I feel very strongly about this issue, and I would like to think that many of the climbers that I look up to and only dream to be as strong as, have good intentions.
    Thank you for bringing this up John, and thank you Narc, this is a good place to discuss these issues. I will will shut up now.

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    • john September 25, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

      “Where does this come from is my question?”

      If these new-school hard routes are all natural as you suggest, and these guys are such advocates of natural-only lines, then they would be reported and promoted as such, to set an example for the rest of the sport. Instead you hear nothing about the subject one way or the other. I’ve never seen in print anyone ask Sharma, point blank, “are these all-natural lines”. I know several of them, like Jumbo and others which admittedly Chris didn’t “open”, are not. So, maybe because I’m a little older more cynical and less naive than you, I tend make assumptions based on experience, gut instinct, and common sense. And usually (fortunately not always), I’m right.

      I could tell you all kinds of horror stories where facts that paint events in a less-than-flattering light were not reported by the climbing media depending on whatever agenda was being pushed and/or to avoid embarrassing themselves with retractions, or where they just knowingly flat-out lied because they didn’t want to piss off the climber’s sponsors – the same sponsors that keep the magazines afloat in the first place. The boots-on-the-rock reality is often (more often than not in recent years) not what the media is telling you (or not telling you) it is.

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  12. antvicino September 25, 2009 at 9:06 pm #

    John, you keep making some pretty large accusations (ie – every cutting edge sport route is manufactured), and yet you are providing no proof. How do you know they are all manufactured? Is Sharma calling you after every send and telling you? You say not to trust the climbing media because they are holding out on information, well perhaps you would care to enlighten us. As it is you just come off as a pompous fool. If you doubt that, I refer you to this gem of a quote – ”

    So, maybe because I’m a little older more cynical and less naive than you, I tend make assumptions based on experience, gut instinct, and common sense. And usually (fortunately not always), I’m right.”

    Only a self-righteous, naiive fool would make such a statement. Now how about you back up your words or go away.

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  13. john September 25, 2009 at 10:34 pm #

    wait a second who the hell named you John. I am John

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  14. Mark September 25, 2009 at 11:42 pm #

    My middle name is John and I feel slightly dirty for my middle name being used to push such pontificating crap.

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  15. Some Guy September 27, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    This was a good debate over sport routes… I see that everyone has some great opinions. I think that John has a good point… but maybe not in the frame that he is thinking. ALL sport routes are manufactured if you think about it. ALL sport routes use BOLTS in the wall. Bolts do not naturally form on the wall. So in that aspect, all sport routes are manufactured. Just the fact that they are there changes the rock face forever. So I’m not saying that this is right or wrong… just something to keep in mind when we are talking about “natural” lines.

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    • antvicino September 27, 2009 at 8:15 pm #

      I would agree with you on a technical level, however that is not what John was implying judging from this quote.

      “Another reason sport climbing seems to be dominating right now as the primary medium for advancing climbing difficulty is that most hard sport routes – Dreamcatcher, Jumbo Love, La Rambla etc – are enhanced to some extent, usually just enough so they’re feasible for whatever the current elite level of climbing difficulty is.”

      So, while on the one hand you have a valid point, it is unfortunately not the one John chose to defend.

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  16. cadaverchris September 27, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

    not to say that Sharma is making excuses… but haven’t people said things like this before?
    the “hardest problems today are either super painful because the holds are so small, or really, really condition dependant… it’s not fun anymore”.

    and “it’s difficult to get much further [in bouldering], unless the problems simply get longer”

    isn’t this what many in the climbing community said at before 5.10, 5.11 or 5.12 grades were broken into? isn’t this what others said before Sharma came along?

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  17. plebeian September 27, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    @ antvincino

    if you read john’s inital comment, he never said that “all hard routes are manufactured” he actually said, “most hard routes are manufactured.”

    which, i would have to say is a big difference.

    there probably is some truth to what john is saying, considering most of the hard sport routes are in europe.

    drilling & enhancing the rock in order to make it climbable has been an acceptable ethic in europe for quite some time. i would say it’s really only been within the past 5-7 years that the ethic has started to change.

    this is not a knock on europe; as matter of fact i adore the place.

    i guess, my point is that i wouldn’t be surprised if these alleged routes were in some form manufactured.

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    • antvicino September 28, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

      Plebeian, you are correct that John makes the distinction that most hard routes are manufactured. Still a big claim, but I was wrong in changing his wording.

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    • Achilleus January 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

      John may not have said “all hard routes are manufactured,” but he may as well have, when he impeached the climbing ethics of Chris Sharma. It’s one thing to say that many/most route in Europe are manufactured or enhanced, and another thing to say that Jumbo Love is probably enhanced, when clearly the man eschews manufactured holds, or chipped routes. What a little guttersnipe this John guy is.

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  18. Remo September 28, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    Some Guy and Plebeian make good points. All sport routes are manufactured due to bolts, that is true, point taken. And yeah, the ethic in Europe has always leaned towards manufacturing routes, that I too agree with. Lets just hope in the future people can appreciate the rock a bit more, and bolts will be the only modification.

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  19. kytoe September 29, 2009 at 6:52 am #

    I heard Sharma wears boxers now instead of briefs. discuss.

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    • Achilleus January 6, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

      This conversation is about a sport that we all love, and a climber whose ability we admire. Your attempt to equate our conversation with a discussion about the type of underwear someone wears, just shows that you’re jealous of all of the attention that Sharma gets for being among the best at what he does. If you could just accept that fact that you are a loser compared to him, and that no one wants to talk about you because you’re a loser compared to him, then you wouldn’t feel the need to deride people who converse about him, and his skills/ethics.

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      • sweatpants January 7, 2010 at 9:32 am #

        I think what Achilleus is trying to say is… obviously commando. He likes to give little Sharma room to breath.

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  20. Karmavore January 7, 2010 at 12:15 am #

    The fact is, the leading edge of the sport is wherever the top climbers are spending there time and effort. Right now it is Sharma and Ondra with sport climbing. If Ondra’s recent forays into the bouldering scene pick up momentum, it could be bouldering again in the forefront, because he is unquestionably the future of climbing, as Sharma was ten years ago.

    At some point Chris HAD to focus his efforts, as being the top generalist knocking off V14 intermixed with 9a+ was no longer sufficient to be the Top Dog. The result of this recent specialization is that he now essentially owns the 9b grade, while he has ceded the hardest boulder grades to others. Five to ten years from now it could be Adam with the V18 grade OR the 9c grade. Unlikely that it would be both, but with this kid, who knows?

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